The Cross and Reconciliation
In the movie The Godfather 2 Alfredo has fallen foul of the family boss Michael. He confesses his crime against the family and looks for reconciliation with his brother who goes through the motions of the embrace and the whispered words of peace even while with his eyes he tells his lieutenant to kill Alfredo. Sometime later, a boat on a lake, a shot and Alfredo slumps over dead--there had been no reconciliation. There can be no reconciliation between enemies unless both "lay down their arms".
In the New Testament reconciliation between God and man who has made God his enemy and thus has the status of a beloved rebel and enemy--reconciliation between God and man is grounded in the work of God and not man. It is God who was reconciling the world in Christ, not counting their sins against them (2Corinthians 5:19). Man can no more reconcile himself with God than he can forgive his own sins but unless the rebel (by God's grace) is willing to receive the reconciliation that God has wrought in and as Christ on the cross then no reconciliation has in fact taken place. There can be no embracing God while embracing murderous purposes because that is the denial of what the cross and reconciliation means.
"And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." (2 Cornthians 5:15)
No one is reconciled to God by virtue of his purpose to live for God! The glad acceptance of God's gift of reconciliation is not an act of self-salvation--it is the reverse; it is the confession of utter dependence on the giver. "All things are of God" (2 Corinthians 5:18).
This is true and must forever be insisted on but it is a serious mistake to reduce "reconciliation" to what was accomplished on the cross. Paul who knew better than we what the cross gained and completed urged his hearers, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). He uses an imperative passive verb. After the cross on which Christ announced, "It is finished!" Paul says, "Get yourselves reconciled to God!"
2 Corinthians 5:15 (cited above) insists that Christ died "in order that" (hina) those who live might live no longer for themselves but him. To say Christ died in order to bring us life, salvation, forgiveness of sins and all those other priceless blessings is true (of course!) but there's more to the atoning death of Christ than this. He died to bring about reconciliation by realigning our hearts and re-identifying us with God. He died to reconcile us to God because without reconciliation with God there can be no life, salvation or forgiveness.
Among all the truths that the New Testament teaches us about the death of Christ here is one that says he died to bring about a realignment of the life's purpose and direction. We were going in one direction with one consuming passion--we lived for ourselves. This was the source of our problem. This was our sin. This is why we were God's enemies. This is what it means that we were alienated from him. We were not alienated from him because he didn't love us but because we didn't love him. He didn't want to give us gifts--he wanted to give us himself. He didn't want our sacrifices--he wanted us. He wanted us back in relationship with him so he died to deal with our hatred and lovelessness, he bore our callousness and self-service on his own heart and in Christ's body. For what? That we might accept his gracious provision and cease to be his enemies. And what does that mean? It means the realignment of the heart, the reorientation of our lives and the re-identifcation of ourselves with the Holy Father. That is reconciliation. That is what he died to bring about. Faith in Jesus Christ who is our atoning sacrifice (Romans 3:25) is more than believing that what we heard is factually/theologically true it is the glad embracing of and commitment to what all that means. The God who reconciled us and to whom we are to "get reconciled" (A.T. Robertson on 2 Corinthians 5:20) is light and cannot be reconciled to those whose heart and purpose is cherished darkness (see Ephesians 4:17-18; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Christ went to the cross in order to reconcile us to God which (in part) is the realignment of our hearts and lives to our gracious and Holy Father.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.